Last updated: 03.05.12

MIT and Harvard reveal online learning details

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University have revealed details of their online learning partnership. Called edX, the initiative will enable people around the world to access online educational content provided by the two US universities. MIT's recently launched MITx will act as the foundation platform for the new service and the two establishments are to release edX as open source software, so it can be utilised by other organisations. In addition, it is hoped more universities will join the edX service and make content available online. In addition, MIT and Harvard will use edX to ascertain the popularity of learning tools and methods and adjust their on-campus and online teaching methods accordingly. Both have committed to investing $30 million (£18.5 million) each in the upkeep of the initiative, which will be based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and managed by a not-for-profit organisation. The first courses will get underway through the project by the autumn and the two universities said they aim to offer as diverse a range of topics as possible. Harvard president Drew Faust said edX "gives Harvard and MIT an unprecedented opportunity to dramatically extend our collective reach by conducting groundbreaking research into effective education and by extending online access to quality higher education". Susan Hockfield, president at MIT, added the initiative creates "a bold new educational path for millions of learners worldwide" and also gives the university the opportunity to raise on-campus standards through the use of web-based learning. However, she added online learning will not replace the campus experience, noting the latter "offers opportunities and experiences that cannot be replicated online". The two universities, which cater to approximately 32,000 students combined, "can't wait to collaborate" on the project, concluded director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT Anant Agarwal, who headed up development of the MITx platform.